It shouldn't be this complicated, but the various confusing and sometimes conflicting gun laws across the country make it difficult to traverse the roadways of America with a firearm legally.
In this article, I'm will briefly discuss concepts of reciprocity.
However, the primary focus of this post will be Article 926A of the Firearm Owner Protection Act and its application in transporting firearms across different state lines.
What is Concealed Carry License Reciprocity?
Most gun owners with concealed carry permits understand the general idea of reciprocity.
Each state independently decides what other state permits they will choose to “honor” in their own state. Some states honor all permits, while others honor no outside state permits. And some states enter reciprocity agreements based on specific criteria.
When traveling with a gun, the first step before hitting the roadways is to check the reciprocity map to see which states honor your concealed carry permit(s). Our reciprocity map builder is (I'm a little bias) the best tool on the internet. You can input any combination of resident and non-resident permits and it will output a green and red map.
States That Have Reciprocity —
The Green states honor your permit. This means law enforcement treats your out-of-state permit just like a resident permit. Clearly, this is a good thing, but you need to be careful. Each state's gun laws are very different. You need to follow the gun laws of the state you're in, even if they honor your license.
If you travel, I encourage you to consider this resource called Legal Boundaries by State. This comprehensive book includes individual state gun laws, as well as information on air travel and more on this topic of interstate travel. We commit to keeping it updated, and publish new volumes more than once a year. It's available as a physical book, or downloadable e-book.
States that Don't Have Reciprocity —
The states that do NOT honor your permit/license show up in red on our map. As opposed to green states, law enforcement in these states looks at you the same as anyone in their state that does NOT have a valid permit.
What does that ultimately mean? Again, each state is different and has different laws that govern what you can do with a gun and where you can have it and how you can transport it in that state. This essentially leaves you with two options:
OPTION 1: Research and become compliant with each individual state's firearm laws as you pass through them. It is a challenge to be sure. You can look online to find the statutes and attempt to interpret them. Consult legal counsel if necessary. You can contact a state police or state patrol and ask them for information, but truthfully, you'll probably get conflicting information.
One thing you DON'T want to do is ask legal questions in online forums. Not only will you definitely get conflicting information, but from what I've seen online, it's not only conflicting, but almost always WRONG.
OPTION 2: Meet the requirements outlined in Article 926A of the Firearm Owner Protection Act, which is a federal law that protects your ability to travel across state lines with a firearm, which is our main point of discussion.
How To Travel Using 926A As Your Legal Method —
Congress passed The Federal Firearm Owner Protection Act in 1986 to address the abuses of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Among its many provisions is article 926A, which states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
So essentially you can transport any firearm from anywhere you can have it to anywhere you can legally have it if you meet the following conditions:
- You are not prohibited otherwise from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm. Those who are prohibited probably already know it. So if you don't think this applies to you and haven't been convicted of a felony … you are probably good!
- You are transporting a firearm. Transporting is a keyword in this provision. This law doesn't apply to someone who drives into New York City and stays there for 2 weeks on business or vacation. That isn't “transporting” a firearm through New York State. Most legal experts agree that reasonable stops, such as filling up with gas or eating a meal while traveling through a state, still meet the requirements of “transporting.”
- You are transporting the firearm for a “Lawful Purpose.” If you are on your way to another state to commit a crime, then this provision can't apply to you.
- During the transportation:
- The firearm is unloaded. That means there is no ammunition in the firearm.
- Both the firearm and any ammunition are NOT readily accessible or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the transporting vehicle. You can do this by removing the firearm from the passenger compartment and placing them in the trunk or some other separate compartment. Another option is to store the firearm within the passenger compartment so that no passengers can readily access it.
- If your vehicle doesn't have a compartment separate from the driver's, such as a truck, the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container, OTHER THAN, the glove compartment or console.
An Important Note About Prohibited Items —
Some state legislatures enacted laws prohibiting things like “high-capacity” magazines, and “assault weapons.” Each state's statutes may vary on how many rounds it takes to qualify as high-capacity.
If you have a 15 round magazine, and travel through a state that criminalizes possession of a magazine with a capacity over 10 rounds, 926A will not protect you. A US District Court addressed the issue in Coalition of New Jersey Sportsmen v. Florio.
The plaintiffs Covey and Mohler contend that:
…the recent amendments to New Jersey's gun control law are preempted by the federal statute providing for the interstate transportation of firearms. 18 U.S.C. § 926A. The federal statute provides, in essence, that anyone may transport firearms from one state in which they are legal, through another state in which they are illegal, to a third state in which they are legal, provided the firearms are transported in a prescribed, safe manner. Plaintiffs argue that, under the recent amendments, they may be arrested for transporting firearms through New Jersey, even though they have complied with the federal statute.
Here is what the court found:
18 U.S.C. § 927. The Court sees no conflict between § 926A and New Jersey's recently amended gun control law. The risk that a person transporting firearms in accordance with § 926A will be arrested in New Jersey for possessing an illegal firearm or magazine is the same risk that person encounters whenever he or she drives through a state where such weapons are illegal. For plaintiffs' predicted irreparable injury to become realized, law enforcement officers … Moreover, the Court is aware of no requirement that the New Jersey law must contain an express acknowledgement of the Supremacy Clause and preemptive legislation in order to pass constitutional muster. Accordingly, plaintiffs' interstate transportation claim must fail as a matter of law, and will be dismissed. An order consistent with this opinion will be entered.
I know that is a lot to say right now, at least in New Jersey, you're likely to be arrested with “high-capacity” magazines even if you're transporting in compliance with 926A. As one reader appropriately commented, “friends don't let friends take a firearm into New Jersey.”
Article 926A, in Conclusion —
If you are traveling through states that otherwise don't honor your permit(s), research and follow that state's law relative to the transporting and vehicle possession of a firearm. Or, follow the requirements of 926A which you know protect you anywhere.
**A Warning. While the Firearm Owner Protection Act exists and provides you with these protections, that doesn't mean that every local officer in every local state is aware of and fully clear on Article 926A!
What's worse is that time and time again, New York and New Jersey law enforcement simply ignores Article 926A and arrests gun owners who comply with the federal law.
If there is any question as to your compliance with 926A, the officer may arrest you, and make you prove to the District Attorney (DA) that you were, in-fact, complying with all the provisions.
If you're interested in learning about other gun laws that don't protect the public, and only turn law-abiding American gun-owners into felons, check out this post.
Using Article 926A as a defense is not an easy legal fight, and police chiefs and DAs with anti-gun ideologies know it. If you frequently travel through states hostile to gun rights, it may be worth it to research a gun law attorney beforehand. Gun law differs from self-defense law, and self-defense insurance companies may not represent your Article 926A defense. That doesn't mean self defense insurance isn't worth your consideration.
What other thoughts, comments or questions do you have about the interstate travel of a firearm? Let us know in the comments below.